How Louisiana prepares teachers for the classroom got a C letter grade Wednesday in a national report, the same rating as last year.
The national average is D-plus, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality, a group in Washington D.C. that calls itself a nonpartisan research organization.
The state was criticized for what the report called:
- Lax admission rules to enter teacher training programs.
- Inadequate preparation for elementary school teachers to give instruction in more rigorous courses starting in 2014.
- Student teaching programs that fail to ensure a quality experience.
On the plus side, the report cited Louisiana as one of just two states that has top-flight ways of rating teacher preparation programs.
The report said that no state earned a grade higher than a B-minus.
Texas got a C-plus and Arkansas and Mississippi each got a C.
The study did not focus on teacher evaluations, which the state is starting to overhaul in the current school year.
“With so much attention on the issue of teacher effectiveness, the relative lack of attention to how candidates for teaching are prepared for the job in the first place is puzzling,” NCTQ president Kate Walsh said in a prepared statement that accompanied the study.
State Superintendent of Education John White said teacher preparation is a shared responsibility, with varying roles for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the state Board of Regents.
“I think that BESE and the Board of Regents and the higher education systems have made progress, but have a ways to go and would be well advised to revisit the way that we prepare our teachers,” White said.
Under current rules, undergraduate teacher candidates who apply for teacher training programs have to pass a skills test called Praxis and achieve a minimum score that is compared with other future teachers.
The report said the state should instead require prospective teachers to pass a common test and finish in the 50th percentile of all students.
In another area, the review said the state has failed to ensure that upcoming elementary school teachers will be prepared for increasingly rigorous courses, which start next year.
The new standards, which educators call common core, have been adopted by nearly every state in a bid to give students more depth on key subjects, and help make students more competitive with their peers worldwide.
“The state does not require a subject matter test that reports subscores in all areas, and its coursework requirements lack the specificity to guarantee relevancy to the elementary classroom,” according to the report.
On student teaching, the state requires at least 270 hours, including 180 hours of actual teaching.
State officials should require at least 10 weeks of student teaching, the review says.
“Student teaching should be a full-time commitment, as requiring coursework and student teaching simultaneously does a disservice to both,” authors of the report wrote.
The study also said the state needs to strengthen academic admission rules and other areas for teachers who enter the field through alternative certification, which is a growing route to the classroom.